Practice notes: Surgery for J.O'Neal?

WALTHAM, Mass. -- A collection of news and notes after the Boston Celtics practiced Thursday afternoon at the Sports Authority Training Center at HealthPoint:

Celtics coach Doc Rivers said center Jermaine O'Neal underwent an MRI Wednesday on his ailing left knee and, while he hadn't seen the results yet, Rivers indicated that in-season surgery was a likely possibility as Boston looks to cure what's nagged at O'Neal during his first three months with the team.

O'Neal sat out Wednesday's game against the Sacramento Kings, the 21st game he's missed this season because of lingering soreness in a knee that's bothered him throughout the latter stages of his career. O'Neal met with the team brass Thursday morning to discuss options and admitted surgery is inevitable, it simply comes down to whether it will come in-season or after.

"[In-season surgery] was definitely something we talked about the first time I was out for the extended period of time," O'Neal told Boston sports radio WEEI (850 AM) Thursday during a weekly Celtics call-in segment. "We wanted to try a couple of other options. We may be looking at that situation now. [Surgery] is something that I will eventually need, at some point -- at the end of the season or if it's in-season -- but you want to be around. You don't want to miss extended periods of time, and for myself. I already did that. So you make your decisions as a player, and you listen to the staff and, if they have a certain way, then you try that out and if it doesn't work you have to go with the next-best scenario.

"I'm going to run in to see the doctor again in just a second with the team trainers and [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] and those guys and we're going to make a decision on ultimately what's best for me to get better and be done with the ailment and be back on the court full time."

Rivers hinted that in-season surgery was the likely option after a two-month break didn't work. O'Neal missed 20 games due to the knee, then returned for 10 games starting on Christmas, but sat out the second half of Friday's win over the Toronto Raptors while admitting to soreness from the renewed activity.

The knee swelled up Wednesday morning, forcing him back to the bench before Boston's lopsided win over the Kings.

"My guess is he's going to have to do something; I don't know that, but I'm using my doctorate," joked Rivers, who has always been fond of noting that 'Doc' is merely his nickname. "My guess is that he'll probably have to do something."

And what happens if O'Neal does need in-season surgery?

"It puts more pressure on all of us," said Rivers, before revealing that reserve center Semih Erden, who filled in nicely for O'Neal Wednesday, posting career highs with 10 points and eight rebounds, missed Thursday's practice due to an aggravated groin pull.

Shrugged Rivers: "Hey, it's who we are."


Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, sidelined the past eight games due to a strained right calf suffered against the Detroit Pistons in late December, participated in more than half of Thursday's practice session and earned positive reviews from Rivers. But it's likely not enough to get him back on the floor when the Charlotte Bobcats visit the TD Garden Friday night, as Rivers said he will sit out again.

"[Garnett] went through probably half the practice -- more than that actually -- and looked pretty good," said Rivers. "No, he’s not playing [Friday]. He looked pretty good; He actually, besides his wind and stuff, his movements were very good."

Asked if he could be back in the starting lineup for Monday's showdown with visiting Orlando, Rivers seemed more optimistic about that.

"Maybe, I want to see him another practice," said Rivers. "He's getting close."

Garnett should get that practice this weekend with the Celtics scheduled to work out on one of two offdays.


* Noting it could happen as early as Friday, Rivers said rookie Avery Bradley will be optioned to Boston's NBA Development League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws in order to log more on-court action.

"We’re going to send Avery down pretty soon," said Rivers. "So that he can get some reps; Playing basketball. He needs to play basketball. Especially with our schedule and the fact that we don't practice at all."

Maine hosts Erie Friday night before a four-game road trip next week takes the Red Claws to Texas. That might be an appropriate trip for Bradley, who played at the University of Texas last season. While Boston has a busy scheduled itself this month, and plenty of room on the active roster to carry him due to injuries, Bradley's playing time has been scarce -- just one minute in Wednesday's bench-heavy victory over Sacramento -- and he'll get more chances to develop in the minor league (and he can always be recalled should the Celtics need another guard).

* The Celtics will struggle to fill all 12 active roster spots Friday night if Garnett and O'Neal are unable to play. Kendrick Perkins and Delonte West are both sidelined, and Erden has the groin injury that could limit him. Then again, Boston might not need those bodies after posting a 93-62 win over Charlotte on Dec. 11, holding the Bobcats to a mere 33.8 percent shooting overall.

* Asked if his team might need to make a roster move if O'Neal was forced to miss extended time, Rivers said simply, "We have 15 players."

Boston would have to eat a guaranteed contract in order to make space for any available free agents.